Sunday, September 19, 2004

Further Vogon Poetry, and Walking/Writing the City….

So yesterday Neha V. calls up while I’m being driven to office in Sethi’s
car, and says –
We’re doing a version of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Plays,
and this friend of mine thinks that we’re all to bourgeois, and wants to
shake things up by putting in really shaking up, revolutionary type
poetry. So tell me stuff quick.

So within five minutes, I suggest really three shaking up type poems,
brutal, tender and downright brutal in turn….

The Missoula Rape Poem by Marge Piercy

Jab Teri Samandar Aankhon Mein(When in Your Ocean Eyes), By Faiz
Sabse Khatarnaak(The Most Dangerous), by Paash.

… As Neha said, which felt good, You’re the only person I know who I can
call up in the middle of the day, and expect to actually fulfill such an
insane request at short order.

Of course, one wonders what happens to a bourgeois Arthur Dent and Ford
Prefect when they’re strapped in and subjected to such intense poetry… a
fate worse than Vogons.

Of course, in a remarkable case of coincidence, which could only be thanks to the Infinite Improbability Generator that powers the Heart of Gold spaceship, Monica, a couple of days earlier - STOLE A HARDBOUND OMNIBUS COPY OF FIVE BOOKS OF THE HITHCHIKERS SO CALLED TRILOGY, AND I HOPE THE CAFE OWNER READS THIS!!!!!!

THIEF! thief! and since the hacker ethic is that all knowledge (and by interpretaion, all literature) WANTS to be Free....

Hail to the Thief!

… that, along with two hundred and fifty people turning up to watch the
first public screening of Fahrenheit 9/11 in Delhi, (a camera print
bought in Palika Bazaar…), pretty much summed up the weird and wonderful
week that passed.

Hail to the Thief indeed!


We wrote a proposal, about a man named Darashikoh Shezad, a character from
that great book about Lahore, called Moth Smoke.

In the proposal, Darashikoh walks through a city of dogs, and the idea is to confuse the reader as to whether it is Delhi or Lahore... invoking the names that Partition and Migration have brought to Delhi. Quetta High School, Lahoriyan di Hatti, Pindi (as in Rawalpindi), Shahdara....

Shehzada Darashikoh, of course, was a historical character whose later history is much more bound up with Delhi than Lahore...

So if we walk through 21st century Delhi with Darashikoh Shezad, in the footsteps of 17th century Shehzada Darashikoh....

Darashikoh's palace, near Kashmiri Gate, was given to the Brits when they took control of Delhi in 1803. It became the British residency. The part they preserved, almost unchanged, was his library. The library where he wrote works like The Mingling of the Oceans, Majma-ul-Bahrain, comparing the mystical traditions of Hnduism and Islam, and findin similarities. in 1843, The Delhi College came to this compound, while the ASI had its own library in the same space as Dara Shikoh's. Later the space went to St. Stephen's College, then to the Delhi College of Engineering, then, five years ago, to The Guru Gobind Singh Instiute of Engineering and Technology.... phew...

From there, you cross the north end of Chandni Chowk, now full of pirated electronics goods, where Dara Shikoh was once paraded in rags, bound, a prisoner of his brother, Aurangzeb, who won the war of succession that followed Shah Jahan's illness....

From there, you will come to the Jama Masjid, the reat congregational mosque of Delhi. When Old Delhi was still young Delhi, when the Jama Masjid had just been built, an Armenian Jewish convert to Islam came to Delhi
and settled on the steps of the mosque. He'd had an illusttrious carrer. After conversio to Islam, he followed many of his trader countrymen, and came to India, where he very soon dispensed with clothes, and started going around stark naked. Then he fell in love with a sweet voiced Hindu boy, Abhay Chand. Then he settled on the steps of The Jama Masjid, and started reciting the incompelte qalima, La Ilaha... There is No God... becuase he believed that revealation could only come after negation... and all of this is from his official hagiography...

Dara Shikoh was one among his fan following. And hence, when Aurangzeb got rid of dara Shikoh, he behaded Sarad too, on charges of heresy...

But just the fact that on the steps of the grandest mosque of the Empire, at the brand new 'centre of the circle of Islam' (markaz i dayra Islam), such a character could flourish and have a fan following, says something for seventeenth century India. That the man's memory is still popular, and his devottes still include members of all communities, says something for twenty first century Delhi....

When the British reconquered Delhi, in 1857, they turned the Jama Masjid into barracks...

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